23 December 2010

Why am I doing this?

Today, I configured password protection for some directories on the virtual LAMP server. I also installed an sftp server daemon. Some of which was confounding, and other aspects of which were easy. I'm still trying to figure out how to set up a static IP for the virtual server and link a host name to it using the hosts file. (You do know that Windows also has a hosts file hidden away that can be configured for just this purpose?)

Which leads me to the basic question: Why am I doing this? Or more important, why do I think digital archivists need to know how to do this?

First, I think moderately sophisticated tech skills can make one more self-sufficient and independent. I don't have to wait for someone else to do something for me. I also like the general sense that I can be responsible for myself.

Second, knowing how to do things means when I need to work with someone else to get the job done, I can talk to them using appropriate language. Not only can I communicate what I want done more effectively, I can understand what they're planning to do. I can approve, disagree, or have an intelligent conversation about the difference of opinion.

Third, in some instances I won't have the skills to do the job. I'm convinced the more I know, the faster I can get my bearing in alien territory. In my experience, being able to talk tech with tech people buys me a lot of credibility, and they're often much more interested in the task at hand. Being able to meet them half way makes a difference.

Finally, combining technical and archival knowledge gives me a richer understanding of the digital materials I'm responsible for and the problems (and potential solutions) for caring for them over time.

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